Remembering Jewish Refuge in Shanghai
Several times in the last few months I have been reminded of Shanghai as a Jewish refuge of the 1930s and 1940s. While viewing the film, "The White Countess" a month or two ago, I found myself sure that this was not the first time in recent memory that I had seen a film that involved China during that period, and that featured Jews (or could have featured Jews). Now the folks at Winter & Winter have released a DVD of 1998's excellent documentary, "Zuflucht in Shanghai: The Port of Last Resort", describing the wide-open port, the only place in the world where one needed no papers, which provided refuge to some 20,000 Jews as Europe was consumed by Holocaust. Despite the alliance of Japanese with the Germans, the Japanese initially favored Jews in Shanghai, and even at the height of war hysteria when food was limited everywhere and Jews were confined to a ghetto, most of those who arrived, survived, and eventually found their ways after the war to the US or Israel, with a few eventually repatriated to Europe after the Communist takeover.
The documentary, by Joan Grossman and Paul Rosdy, featuring soundtrack music by John Zorn, is excellent. It features a wealth of contemporaneous letters and photos, interspersed with interviews with four of the survivors. Winter & Winter have done their usual very classy job of producing a well-documented, beautiful DVD package. So taken was Stefan Winter by the story, that he also created a separate CD "soundscape" featuring music by Brave Old World and a Chinese ensemble, along with contemporaneous recordings which is its own fascinating accompaniment to imagining the period: Metropolis Shanghai: Showboat to China. A very different sort of Jewish-Chinese world music CD, and a real pleasure to hear.